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Debian GNU is Not Unix Software Linux

Social Contract Amendment May Bump Sarge To 2005 525

An anonymous reader submits "Debian's Release Manager Anthony Towns announced that after the Grand Resolution to amend the Social Contract has been successful (it does not only apply to software any more), vital parts to modern Linux systems, such as important documentation, firmware needed for proper hardware support will have to be removed from the distribution before the next release. Moreover, the upcoming installer will need to be changed. He goes on to say that he does not expect this to happen by the end of this year which means that Sarge will not be released in 2004."
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Social Contract Amendment May Bump Sarge To 2005

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  • Why can't they (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:28AM (#8980182)
    Release one version with the new contract next year, and one without it sooner? Call it sarge- and sarge+.
    • Re:Why can't they (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ( 614258 ) <> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:36AM (#8980679) Homepage
      That's what I was thinking. Why not call it the Social Contract of 2005?

      Or amend the social contract to promise hardware support and then prioritize the goals to hardware support takes a priority until a "free" option is created or becomes available?

      It appears as though Debian is going to take a big step backwards if something isn't done. The goals are clearly good, yet the real world has always required a compromise between the ideal and the real. Don't the Debian developers actually work in IT for a living?

      I'm really concerned about this, because I was highly considering Debian for the next OS to try since RH is discontinuing free security updates, and I'm not sure at all how Fedora is supposed to address it. The last thing I need, though, is a hardware problem, particularly with a network card.

      • Re:Why can't they (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Wyzard ( 110714 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @02:20AM (#8980918) Homepage

        Nobody's saying that your proprietary hardware will cease to work in Debian. The packages will still exist; they'll just be in the "non-free" section, separated out so that people who don't want any non-free software can omit that section from their sources.list file. Non-free packages are technically not part of Debian, but if you have a non-free line in your sources.list, there's no difference whatsoever in how you use them.

        • Your probably right. However, when I read his description of the impact on the installer, it appeared a bit unprecedented that the firmware for a network card could not be presumed to be in the kernel, and thus creating a new complication.

          Perhaps this is only an issue for the next major release, and thus not critical today. I don't know. The reality is, though, that people have to make decisions and don't have all the time in the world to investigate every possible scenario and become Debian gurus befo

          • Re:Why can't they (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Wyzard ( 110714 )

            I suppose you're right that if your hardware needs non-free firmware then it won't be usable right away in the installer, but it's not that much of a big deal to provide the necessary driver to the installer. But I think long-run maintainability of a system, especially a server, is much more important than ease of getting it installed in the first place, and that's an area where Debian shines. (That's not to say that installation should be difficult, but someone installing an operating system on a mission

            • You're right, once it's running, everything is great.

              What I was kind of imagining, though, when I said, "people need some assurance that things will run smoothly, today and in the foreseeable future," was that if Debian did install successfully and run well (Java is fast, errata is easy to keep up-to-date, etc,...), it might become the chosen OS for successive hardware purchases, which may have different hardware and may receive a newer version of Debian. You want to know that the installation 6 months f

            • Re:Why can't they (Score:5, Insightful)

              by FuegoFuerte ( 247200 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:56AM (#8981291)
              It's going to be hard to say this without people getting their panties in a knot, but I absolutely hate trying to 1) get debian systems running how I want and 2) keep them running how I want.

              Maybe it's just me, but it seems like if some of the Debian folk spent as much time fixing their distribution as they do ranting about the philosophy behind their system, it could just about literally jump into my computer, read my mind, and magically do everything I wanted without me touching a keyboard. As it is though, I'm forever saying to myself "now where the hell did they put THAT file, since it's not in its standard location..." and "what version is this package really? It looks like version 3.1 from 2 years ago.... no wait, that's 3.1-15... wtf is the -15? It has features that weren't released until 3.9? Huh?!??" and similar.

              I once made the mistake of trying to figure out what flags were being used to compile a Debian package... after jumping around through about 7 different intertwined and slightly obfuscated shell scripts for about an hour, I gave up.

              Unfortunately, I'm still stuck using Debian on one server (the owner doesn't want to change OSs), but I've gone to Slackware on all my systems. Much simpler system to deal with overall, IMNSHO.
              • Re:Why can't they (Score:5, Interesting)

                by Wyzard ( 110714 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @04:33AM (#8981414) Homepage

                Standard location? In my mind, the "standard" location for a file is where Debian puts it, and I get confused when it's located somewhere else in another distribution. :-)

                I get the sense that you're used to installing things via "configure; make; make install". It's good to have a simple method like that available, but when I talk about maintainability of a system, installing non-packaged software is one of the biggest ways to hurt that maintainability. Files created by a "make install" usually don't have any way to cleanly remove or upgrade them; you can upgrade by installing a new version over the old, but if the old version included any files that were removed in the new version, you still have that cruft sitting around. You get the idea.

                I like the fact that Debian has lots of infrastructure. I like to know that when I install a package, it will cleanly integrate with other related packages, and when I remove it, it will cleanly go away. I like the fact that when I'm looking for a package that performs a certain function, I can often guess its name, thanks to fairly consistent naming patterns, and that when I'm looking for a file, I can usually guess where it's located due to a consistent and sensible filesystem hierarchy.

                I hang out in #debian on IRC, and I read some of the mailing lists, and I see a lot more discussion on practical matters than on philosophy, and philosophical rants are pretty rare. The system works quite well for those who use it; your comment about "fixing their distribution" just doesn't apply. Remember that Debian is run democratically: if you don't like the way something's being done, you can always register as a Debian Developer and vote to do things your way. If you don't want to do that, or if you get outvoted by people who like things the way they are, you can use another distribution and nobody will hold it against you.

                • Re:Why can't they (Score:4, Insightful)

                  by Welsh Dwarf ( 743630 ) <d DOT mills-slashdot AT guesny DOT net> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @05:36AM (#8981604) Homepage
                  You have just pointed out the #1 reason why sysadmins who compile from source on production servers need a beating with a clue stick. I'm not going to get all superior, because I know that at one time, I did the same thing. The point is, to put something new on a production machine (like samba with acl support for debian) you: -Compile it on a development box with prefix=/tmp/what_you_want -Make a package of it -test the package on a second test box to make sure it works -install the package on your server This provides several advantages besides the one you stated: Firstly, you never have to have dev tools on your production server (and a lot of rootkits depend on these being present). Secondly, you are sure that when you deploy, it's quick and painless, and you won't brake your server with a botched compile. Thirdly, you can deploy then on multiple servers quickly and efficiently.
                • Re:Why can't they (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by FuegoFuerte ( 247200 )
                  Standard location? In my mind, the "standard" location for a file is where Debian puts it, and I get confused when it's located somewhere else in another distribution. :-)

                  I tend to think of the "standard" location as being where I can find a file on better than 75% of the *nix systems I've used (Several linux distros, BSDs, HP-UX, Irix, Solaris, etc). But whatever makes a person happy I suppose. For a linux distro, I'd say the standard location should be where the LSB says it is, which from what I've s
                  • Re:Why can't they (Score:5, Informative)

                    by dondelelcaro ( 81997 ) <> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:55PM (#8986511) Homepage Journal
                    For a linux distro, I'd say the standard location should be where the LSB says it is, which from what I've seen Slackware tends to follow a lot closer than Debian.
                    By default, Debian Policy [] stays in sync with the LSB. However, there are a few places where the LSB is suboptimal, so Debian documents the differences in policy, and does the right thing. Is there a particular set of files that you're talking about that you feel is in the wrong place?

                    Actually, I typically install things via "installpkg ---.tgz" and upgrading things via "upgradepkg ---.tgz". When I install from source, I use "configure; make; checkinstall 'make install'". This makes a package out of it that I can easily install, remove, upgrade, whatever I want.
                    And here, I do the following to upgrade or install a package:
                    dpkg -i foo.deb;
                    aptitude update && aptitude upgrade;
                    Finally, if I need to build and something from source, it's as simple as:
                    apt-get source foo;
                    apt-get install build-essential fakeroot;
                    apt-get builddep foo;
                    cd foo-*;
                    # Change how ./configure or make or R CMD is called
                    $EDITOR debian/rules;
                    # Build the .deb
                    fakeroot debian/rules binary;
                    # install the .deb
                    dpkg -i ../foo_*.deb
                    There's nothing magical there at all. The rules file calls make in the build target, and everything else happens automatically. [Now, if you don't know how to modify a make file, perhaps you shouldn't be building stuff from source?]
                  • Re:Why can't they (Score:3, Insightful)

                    by Wyzard ( 110714 )

                    It's not really "the masses" who run Debian... it's Debian Developers. Anyone can be a DD, but you have to get a PGP key signed by another DD and go through an application process, so there's a sort of self-screening that keeps out people who don't really have that much of an interest in the project. There are lots of DDs, and it's true that most probably don't have a deep knowledge of the workings of all the software in the distribution, but they're not exactly "unwashed masses" as you portray. :-)


        • They really should institute some sort of "semi-free" section for those of us who agreed with the old social contract, and therefore don't want to use contrib or non-free, but find the new one too broad, and therefore have no objection to installing things like GFDL documentation. Moving all binary firmware and GFDL docs out to non-free will just force almost everybody to use non-free, which defeats the point.
      • Re:Why can't they (Score:3, Insightful)

        by spotteddog ( 234814 )
        Don't the Debian developers actually work in IT for a living?

        Many of us do. Many do not. Many are students. Debian is very diverse.

        Some of us who "actually work in IT" view our Debian work as a way to fix what we view as broken in the "mainstream (MS dominated)" IT world. One of those broken things is the lack of accountability, stability, and reliability in all facets of "mainstream/modern" mass produced IT systems.

        I compromise my "idealism" with respect to computing systems at the job I get paid f
  • Debian standards (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:29AM (#8980191)
    All I have to say is, good for them for sticking to their standards.
    • by quinkin ( 601839 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @02:10AM (#8980868)
      Hrm... Having read the majority of the newsgroup postings on the topic I think I can say with some certainty that the Debianites really need to work on their own social standards.

      They are astonishingly rude and confrontational in an entirely unproductive way. Sure it's probably unfair to point the finger at Debian alone (especially on /. - oh the irony) but I can say with some certainty that nothing positive will come from that thread. Conflict resolution amongst egotistical (come on , we can admit it) geeks is damn difficult - especially when programmer opinions take on the form of religious zealotry (free vs. libre).

      These are big changes, and many people are expressing that they felt misled with the "editorial changes" description of the vote in question. I am not going to get involved in an internal dispute, except to say that it is in the best interests of the project for the majority not to feel manipulated and/or deceived. Again, I'm not saying they have been, I am saying that is what some are expressing.


      • by Karora ( 214807 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @02:49AM (#8981028) Homepage

        As with any group of over 1000 individuals, your statement is a vast generalisation.

        How can you call us "rude and confrontational" when all you are basing that on are some mailing list posts, primarily in a mailing list which is renowned for that behaviour.

        Personally, as a Debian Developer, I try to assist people and fix bugs in my packages, as my way of contributing back to a phenomenal set of software. Debian has over 5000 packages in the distribution, and while those are mostly not written by DDs, they are packaged, and made to play together nicely and install, upgrade and uninstall cleanly, and the whole damn thing just works.

        Yes, of course Debian Developers are principled people who care passionately about things other than software, and if you stick a thousand of them in a mailing list together there is bound to be fire! And hell, some of us are geeks without social skill. Cry me a river.

  • up to date? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by linuxbert ( 78156 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:44AM (#8980299) Homepage Journal
    i use and like debian. but i want new packages to be released, and for it to generally appear to be supported.

    if you dont want non-free stuff, fine, release sarge, its almost ready (and long delayed) and make removal of non free packages a goal of the next release.
  • by rufey ( 683902 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:47AM (#8980326)
    Although I am disappointed that Sarge will take a bit longer, for my two servers at home, Woody has been rock solid. Sure I grabbed, compiled, configured, and am running 2.6.4 on one of them, but its still Woody under the hood. If I need something newer than what Woody has, I grab the source and build it myself (OSS is great because of this). I like machines that just run and don't need to be upgraded every other month. The bleeding edge releases of other vendors simply doesn't offer anything I need for a web, mySql, Sendmail/Postfix , and DNS server.

    We have machines at work that are currently running Redhat 7.2. A couple are RedHat 8, 9, and RHEL 2.1. Why are they not all running the latest and greatest RedHat? Because we either can't afford the downtime (not to mention configuration) to upgrade every time that RedHat comes out with its next release, or the bleeding edge releases break things. Unless a newer release provides some feature/function that we need in production and we can't get any other way, we don't upgrade each time a release comes out. We've even downgraded a couple of machines from RHEL 3.0 to 2.1 because getting some Oracle software installed was near imposible (even with Oracle consultants on-site!)

    I'd much have a rock solid server that performs its job all the time than have a bleeding edge server that requires 2 or 3 upgrades a year just to stay bleeding edge.

    • And even better, all you have to do to keep Debian at the latest official release is to point to the "stable" branch. When sarge is release, you'll get all the updates automatically--and you have the reassurance that the migration path has been tested and retested ad nauseum.
    • Better to have planned downtime for system migration then unplanned downtime for system triage and intrusion cleanup. Running RH 7.2 on any kind of network with a chance of outside contact is just as bad if not worse then running Windows 2000 unpatched in a similar situation (at least with 2k Pro the only services running is file sharing). Personally I would be running RHEL 3.0 on most of those boxes and telling RH to get their freaking act together and fix the damn Oracle problems! That's why you are payin
      • by rufey ( 683902 )
        While I agree that having older operating systems can pose a security risk, with proper administration, you can reduce that greatly.

        Our older RedHat systems don't run all the default services. In fact, most of them can only be gotten to (from the outside) on port 80 and or 443, which runs the latest and greatest Apache/Java/Tomcat. Sure, inside we also have ssh access, but with a firewall and intrusion detection between it and the Internet, its a good bet that port 80/443 is all thats open. We have m

    • And there's more! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:52AM (#8980765) Homepage Journal
      Adding to your post, I would like to make the case for Debian unstable.

      Unstable in no way means it's really unstable. What it means is that while packages have had some basic testing, the distribution as a whole hasn't been religiously tested, and, consequently, isn't years behind the curve as stable is.

      Packages in unstable often provide improvements and bugfixes that the versions in stable didn't yet have.* This means that, while stable is guaranteed to be stable, many people will find unstable more usable (especially people using Gaim, as the IM networks change protocols once in a while, breaking older versions).

      The message is, if you want guaranteed stability, use Debian stable. If you want to stay current, but still want to have the benefits of Debian (easy software installation, automatic dependency resolution), use Debian unstable. Don't use testing, unless you really intend to test it - it's almost guaranteed to be broken.

      * Note that security fixes are backported to stable. This means that you can keep using the version of the package you have always used, and be sure your configuration keeps working, while still getting security updates that are only available through upgrading for other distros.
      • Re:And there's more! (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You appear to have confused "testing" and "unstable."
        • by pohl ( 872 )
          I'm clear on the intended semantics of "stable", "testing", and "unstable", but my experience is exactly the same as the grandparent post. There may be an occasional burp in the updates, but they go away fairly quickly. In contrast it seems like it takes forever for fixes to get promoted to testing. I've been a debian unstable user for years, and feel like it's the sweet spot to be at for the best balance of recent software and ease of maintenance. Face it, the debian development process is so freakin
  • Great. Just great. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JessLeah ( 625838 ) * on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:52AM (#8980354)
    As more and more pieces of hardware will be protected by the ever-intensifying "intellectual property" laws, Debian will get more and more worthless. It's quite simple: In the distant past, manufacturers made specs available to those who asked. Then they stopped doing it, but you could reverse-engineer them. Then a few of them succumbed to commercial pressure (and the desire to look like "nice guys" to geeks who might influence corporate purchasing decisions) and released binary-only, proprietary drivers for the most popular Linux distro(s) (read: Red Hat and, if you're lucky, Mandrake and/or SuSE). Now most companies don't even bother doing that, and there is a growing trend towards the use of wrappers and such around Windows (!!!) DLL-based drivers. Linux's future is one of proprietary drivers and payware wrappers around proprietary Windows drivers.

    And the Debian people are rejecting this sort of thing because of their morals. That's really great. It's also, unfortunately, a wonderful way to ensure that Debian only has primitive, reverse-engineered, DMCA-illegal, flaky support for newer hardware.

    Let's see. nVidia and ATI both have proprietary binary-only drivers for Linux (which of course ONLY work on Linux/x86, not Linux/PPC or Linux/ARM or Linux/SPARC or whateverthehell), right? DriverLoader is required to use a bunch of WiFi chipsets under Linux, using Windows .DLLs. Mplayer (that favourite of rebellious geeks) uses Windows .DLLs. Am I forgetting any similar projects? And the kernel is full of various drivers (think sound drivers) which ask for proprietary pieces of firmware, right? I suppose the Debian folks are going to rip out support for all of these devices?

    I LIKE the Debian project's inherent sense of morality. I DON'T like their ridiculous lack of pragmatism. This sort of antic is only going to drive off more moderate users towards the likes of Fedora (bloatbloatbloat), Lindows^WLinspire (Windows wannabe, bloat), and ... well, and Windows itself. Way to go, guys.
    • by Phleg ( 523632 ) <stephen@ t o> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:02AM (#8980421)
      This is what contrib and non-free are for. Debian's new social contract simply says that it will not depend upon non-free goods of any sort--not that it won't be provided.
      • Debian's new social contract simply says that it will not depend upon non-free goods of any sort--not that it won't be provided.

        Debian's Social Contract has always said that it won't depend upon non-free software. Unless you're one of the people who think that software != data, nothing has really changed at all.

        In fact, the only possible new class of works that this covers is documentation and things like images, not firmware or anything else. Those have always been (rather non-controversially) covere

    • by Wyzard ( 110714 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:17AM (#8980550) Homepage

      Most likely, the non-free stuff will not be completely removed, but rather, moved to the non-free section of the distribution. (Strictly speaking, non-free isn't part of the distribution, so things moved there have been removed from Debian, but the packages are available from the same servers, and interoperate with the free stuff.)

      The NVidia drivers, for example, work just fine in Debian. Not only is the nvidia-kernel-source package available via apt-get, but it works with Debian's kernel-package build system to produce .deb packages of the built modules. The fact that the drivers are non-free don't affect me in the least; I use them the same way I use any other third-party module package.

      I'm not particularly bothered by this change. I'm slightly bothered by the delay of the Sarge release, but since I run Sid on my desktop, and my servers do fine with Woody plus an occasional backport, it's not that big a deal. And it does pretty much answer the question of whether GNOME 2.6 will make it into Sarge. :-)

    • by green_crocadilian ( 717907 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:21AM (#8980579)
      I certainly see your point that for some popular devices (e.g. nVidia cards), the proprietary drivers are much better than the open ones. I also agree that going the moral road will turn away some users.

      However, Debian is imho big enough to pull this sort of thing. If some micro-league, half-assed distro went this route, it would die in obscurity, but a major product like Debian will survive. Furthermore, by rejecting proprietary firmware and documentation, Debian is raising awareness of some important issues (like Fedora not including mp3 support raises awareness of patent encumbered technologies).

      Say you get a shiny new pci card with a little tux on the box, and a proprietary driver on the CD. Cool, huh? No. Not cool. The driver will work with your Linux system provided:
      -you use kernel 2.4 or maybe 2.6
      -you compiled said kernel with gcc 3.2 or 3.3
      -you use glibc 2.somethingorother
      -your /etc, /dev, and /proc are set up just right.

      Years pass. Linux gains 20% desktop market share. Duke Nukem Forever is released for Mac and Lintel. You fish out an old computer from your closet; you want to install a Linux (kernel 3.0; compiled with gcc 3.5; with glibc 2.somethingelse; and a GNU/Darwin directory layout) to turn into a streaming virtual reality server for your apartment. Guess what's the probability of your closed-source driver still working?

      Open source drivers might be a hassle to use in the short term, but C source is still the most portable way to distribute software.
    • by njdj ( 458173 )
      Linux's future is one of proprietary drivers and payware wrappers around proprietary Windows drivers.

      And the Debian people are rejecting this sort of thing because of their morals. That's ... a wonderful way to ensure that Debian only has primitive, reverse-engineered, DMCA-illegal, flaky support for newer hardware.

      I never buy hardware that isn't supported by free (as in freedom) software. As Linux use grows, there is a good chance that market forces will favor those companies which publish specs for the
  • by Morganth ( 137341 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:56AM (#8980376) Journal
    I can see why some people think Debian is fading into irrelevance. Even running sid feels like you're "behind the curve" (in terms of what my Gentoo friends are emerging), and sid is already well ahead of sarge and perhaps years ahead of woody.

    Nonetheless, instead of complaining about it, why not help a hand. One first project ot look is Debian on the Desktop [].

    Maybe from there desktop users can pull enough weight to a) get the latest desktop packages into sid (or at least, at worst, experimental); b) utilize existing apt-get source framework to allow for rapid from-source installs of bleeding edge apps, to reduce packaging time; c) further tweak app to prevent the already-rare occurences of dependecy hell (or, more appropriately, must-remove-to-upgrade hell).

    But please, don't do what I do. Don't whine. Just try and help. I think Debian needs a community of [young] desktop users to sort of provide a voice alongside the old-timers who care more about stable servers than Gnome 2.6 or whatnot.

  • It's a shame (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stootles ( 100640 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:57AM (#8980384)
    After reading this we are now discussing what distro to look at? I don't feel like fighting with management about another distro - Debian was so good that the battle with them was worth it, we just found out we have Suse licenses, so that could be the go - plus we will actually have a big red support button - running 20 servers and I have never had a support button before, that'll be different.

    Seriously Debian is great, but, this is a ?harsh? reminder that Debian is not developed for users - never has been - it is developed for the developers making Debian.

    However, I see a possible bonus here for those commercial distro's using Debian as they will be able to insert the non-free stuff into their own distro's. From what I saw it seems alot of people would start with something like progeny, but end up migrating to Debian proper - maybe this will give those companies a fighting chance to keep their linux users.


  • want sarge now? (Score:2, Informative)

    by agwis ( 690872 )
    vi /etc/apt/sources.list
    apt-get update; apt-get upgrade

    In the meantime, I'll stay with woody on my servers. I like the fact that 'stable' really does mean stable when running debian.

  • Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aws4y ( 648874 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:03AM (#8980431) Homepage Journal

    I think that the Debian people are right on this one , however the FSF foundation is partly to blame because of the invariant sections in the FDL . (why glibc wont have documentation)

    I think the solution, since non-free is being kept, should be to include the non-free repositories in the default "sources.list" file and allow tasksel to use non-free packages for documentation under a "Non-Free documentation" header, no non-free stuff should needed for the bootstrap installation(although binary kernel module won't be available by default). Thats the best comprimise, IMHO.

    Could we stop the Microsoft, Debian, Gentoo and Fedora, and *BSD astroturfing please?

    • Re:Interesting (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pla ( 258480 )
      Could we stop the Microsoft, Debian, Gentoo and Fedora, and *BSD astroturfing please?

      Debian (and Linux in general) does not exist in a vaccuum. In a discussion on the merits of following the "free" philosophy to an irrational conclusion (seemingly, what Debian has chosen to do with Sarge), you need to mention other Linux distros (Fedora), other 'nix-like OSs (*BSD), and other popular OSs (Windows).

      Philosophically, I agree with the idea of Debian. I consider it a truly wonderful goal. In the current I
  • A good push-back (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:03AM (#8980432) Homepage
    This is a good thing. Debian is pushing back against increasingly proprietary hardware.

    Now we need a logo for open-source hardware, so people know what to buy. Preferably one designed by a competent icon designer, like Susan Kare.

    • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:35AM (#8980673)
      "Now we need a logo for open-source hardware, so people know what to buy. Preferably one designed by a competent icon designer, like Susan Kare."

      No, we need the DMCA repealed, so developers within the USA won't be afraid to reverse-engineer some company's hardware. We need companies to release their own source, or to at least provide a high quality binary driver if the development is slow enough (XFree86 as an example) so that people can use Linux on their new cheap machines.

      For the longest time there was no decent support for the sound chipset on my motherboard. Fortunately the OEM didn't skimp on the PCI slots, so adding a Sound Blaster with an EMU10K wasn't a big deal, but it would be nice for this stuff to just work. I had an i815 based machine at work that has problems with sound, video, and ethernet. The video stuff came in first, but I had added cards to handle sound and ethernet, and even if they have a solution at this point it's irrevelant to me since I came up with a stable workaround. Most users aren't going to want to do that though, they just want the damn thing to work.

      I use Debian on my computers. I like it. It's easy to maintain, stable on the servers, and fairly easy to keep current enough for my tastes with Sid. I install it and I don't think about it anymore, excepting security updates. I have a computer that's been up for the better part of a year (non-public:) and doesn't give me any fits. I could probably automate the apt-get update && apt-get upgrade procedure and still not worry.

      Debian is for Slackware admins that got lazy.
  • Perspective (Score:5, Informative)

    by The Musician ( 65375 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:04AM (#8980441) Homepage
    A few disclaimers, from someone who reads debian-* lists regularly, but isn't part of the project...

    (1) Much of what is proposed is about moving pieces of the OS from the "main" archive to the "non-free" archive; "main" is what you get on the Debian CDs, "non-free" is available via ftp. So it is probably less convenient to obtain, but not totally expunged from debian.

    Of course, components that affect your initial installation are more sensitive to the method of distribution, but other projects are welcome to build mixed installer tools that combine the default debian installer with the non-free firmware.

    (2) This was only announced about 24 hours ago. Things are still in a state of flux, so don't take the "all this is happening and sarge is now year(s) away" too literally.

    (3) Don't read into the summary that this solely a personal decision by Anthony Towns, or that he is necessarily in favor of the proposed changes.
    • > (3) Don't read into the summary that this solely a personal decision by Anthony Towns, or that he is necessarily in favor of the proposed changes.

      This is quite right. He believes that the changes to the sarge schedule may be necessary, but when the vote was decided, he was like "oh great, dudes, what the fuck have you guys just voted in favor of?" on IRC.

      Note that the vote proposal was poorly worded and that most people would have voted against it if it were clearer as to what was going on in the cha
  • Mind you, I'm all in favor of this, but I couldn't help but think:

    I can no longer sit back and allow [them] to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids.

  • by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:19AM (#8980561)
    I think my first reaction at reading this announcement was one of disappointment. This seems a lot like a step backwards, especially when many important components are affected. However, after a bit of thought on this subject, I have come to the conclusion that this is a good idea anyway.

    First, if I am interpreting this correctly, this entire issue revolves around Debian remaining 100% free (under a certain definition of "free"), and not requiring the use of any non-free component. This is in stark contrast to, say, the NetBSD project, which is a bit more lax on which "free"/"open" licenses qualify for inclusion in their software. Their idea is that they do not have infinite time to reproduce every single component under the BSD license, so inclusion of other software benefits the community. This would seem to place Debian at a disadvantage.

    But upon further reflection, I reminded myself that free software is all about the freedom to choose. In other words, I can choose to use Debian, or not, and further, if I choose to use Debian, nobody said that I can't install components from other distros, specific developers whose software was not included, or even earlier versions of Debian. Therefore, this becomes a great advantage to the community: A 100% "free" distribution, into which you can add whatever components, free or not, that you wish.

  • Problem with pushing Sarge back is that Woody continues to age. I suppose for those on a server, a 2.4.x kernel is fine if bf-2.4, but TBH, I'd like to see Sarge come out with the stock kernel as 2.4.26 or even 2.6.5. Who runs Woody with 2.2 anymore these days? Sure, it's rock stable, but it's not going to run the next greatest thing.

    I'm not trying to attack Woody, I used to use it before switching to Sid, but let's face it; the packages are old and deprecated. As I said above, it may still appeal to t

    • Re:Woody's Age (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Wyzard ( 110714 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @02:13AM (#8980885) Homepage
      Then again, it begs the question, is Debian really a desktop OS? Debian developers seem to argue that one a lot.

      Stable isn't, but with a little care and feeding, Sid is. And the care and feeding is educational -- just doing an upgrade every few days with apt-listchanges installed is a great way to learn by osmosis little tidbits about the system's workings.

  • by Visceral Monkey ( 583103 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:27AM (#8980628)
    It's obviously the result of a grand conspiracy involving the masons, jews and gentoo users. Those dirty, dirty Gentoo users..

  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:39AM (#8980693) Homepage
    One of the cool things about Debian is they way they relentlessly review things to make sure they are free. The Debian Free Software Guidlines (DFSG) are rigorously applied, and anything that doesn't meet DFSG is not allowed in Debian's "main" area.

    (I tell people "Debian is fanatic about this stuff so we don't have to be." If you just use Debian main, you are using nothing but free software. Easy!)

    Debian has two areas for software that doesn't meet the DFSG: "contrib" and "non-free". Now that this proposal has passed, not only software but documentation and firmware will be migrated out of main and into contrib or non-free.

    The first thing I thought when I read this was: I wonder if Richard Stallman will finally be satisfied?

    Last August, RMS was asked in an interview [], which distribution of GNU/Linux he would recommend. He said he would recommend GNU/LinEx [], because it contains no non-free software. As it turns out, he was mistaken about that; GNU/LinEx still has traces of non-free software in it, just as Debian has. He withdrew the recommendation of GNU/LinEx (without, to my knowledge, offering any recommendation to replace it).

    RMS has said that he cannot recommend any distro that offers up free and non-free software from the same servers, or contains references to any servers that offer non-free software. (Keep in mind that his definition of non-free is not identical to the "non-free" of the Debian project.) So Debian, the most free distro I know, is still not recommended by RMS.

    You can read a somewhat acrimonious discussion thread about this here if you like: discussion archived by []

    Note that Debian is so committed to free software that they are booting FSF documentation from main, because of the newest version of the "Free Documentation License" that allows invariant sections. Invariant sections are clearly free according to the FSF, but they are not in compliance with the DFSG, and thus do not go in main anymore. Discussion here:

    another discussion archived by []

    I will close with a final quote from RMS [], on the possibility that Debian might one day strip out the non-free software to his satisfaction:
    The change that I asked Debian developers to make, some years ago, was to separate the two, such that we could refer people to Debian GNU/Linux without in the same act referring them also to the non-free software. This would make it possible for us to refer the public to Debian GNU/Linux. If in the future Debian GNU/Linux does not include the GNU manuals, this reference could not be wholeheartedly positive, but we could still make the reference.

    P.S. If you asked me for a recommendation for a truly free distro, I'd suggest Debian main. If you don't put contrib and non-free in your sources.list file, you will never get any contrib or non-free software and yours system will be fully free software. That's good enough for me, even though it's not good enough for RMS.

    • At some point everyone just needs to stop giving a fuck what some bearded hippie thinks (not that being a bearded hippie is a BAD thing) and just get the fuck on with it. Look, I respect RMS and the FSF as much as anyone else that uses Linux but I seriously don't give a flying fuck what RMS does and doesn't like. It makes no difference to me, and it shouldn't make a difference to anyone else. RMS is NOT divine. He's just a guy. His opinion is no more relevant than anyone else's.
  • by gnuman99 ( 746007 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @02:04AM (#8980830)
    For people that don't know, Debian has 3 distributions: unstable (Sid), testing (Sarge) and stable (Woody). This means that if you want most up-to-date software, you run Sid and cope with some possible breakage (I didn't have anything broken badly over the last few years).

    If you want stuff up to date, but want to have something that would be considered "stable" by other distros, you run Sarge (or testing).

    The Woody distribution is for cases when you want to run a bunch of applications predictably. This means that your production application will run the same on day one as it does on day 100. An update will not break your application. An update will not change the way the application works. That is the point of stable - stable operation for a long period of time.

    And yes, you can install 2.4.26 in Woody (from Woody actually has 2.4.x kernels no matter what the trolls are talking about.

    • If you want stuff up to date, but want to have something that would be considered "stable" by other distros, you run Sarge (or testing).

      This is wrong, see the discussions on Debianplanet [] (post by Chris Metzer) and the mailing list []. To summarize: Testing exists for the development of the next Stable release. It is not intended to provide people with a more recent Stable. Debian does have a problem getting timely Stable releases, but the solution is not to point end-users to Testing.

      • How is this wrong? It is what would be considered stable by other distributions. If you don't mind having feature updates for software and packages added to the tree, you might as well use Sarge. What, then, is the difference between that and releases by other distributions?

        Yeah, that's not its "official" purpose, but that doesn't negate the reality of the situation.

        • Did you even read the link? Testing does not get timely security updates. Gnome and KDE were broken for months in Testing in the past year. This may happen in other development trees like Redhat-Rawhide and Mandrake-Cooker, but not in the release versions. Testing may (or may not) be less broken than the development trees, it is not comparable to the release versions of other distros. Close to release it's of course pretty stable. But at the start and in the middle of the cycle, things may be a lot worse. W
  • Ah jeez... (Score:3, Funny)

    by ecloud ( 3022 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @02:52AM (#8981036) Homepage Journal
    another excuse to be even later than ever.

    I wish I had known to go vote on that one. I've been a bit of a Debian snob ever since I switched from Slackware but they seem to get further behind all the time. Am trying Gentoo on one box now, and it's much better about that. Nowadays it's better for bragging about too... don't need no steenkin' unoptimized binaries, and all that jazz.

    Yeah I like the stability, and I like that it's 100% free software but this is ridiculous. Maybe do it in the next version? Plan ahead a little, rather than stop the whole train?

    Eric Raymond a few years ago was preaching that while Open Source software doesn't permit you to make money by selling software, at least you can sell documentation, and consulting services, and t-shirts, and still put the beans on the table. Well I guess they don't even believe in non-free documentation. Next they'll be insisting that all Debian t-shirts be made only from wild open-range hemp, harvested and woven by young virgin volunteers, stone-washed in the Rocky Mountain heights, and given away freely to anyone who knows how to sing the Free Software Song properly.

    I don't know the history of the libc documentation but I don't think anybody was suing them for compensation, were they? If not, maybe it's free enough, regardless of some poorly chosen words in a preamble somewhere?
  • by Elf-friend ( 554128 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:11AM (#8981115)
    It seems to me that Debian can't decide what it is these days. Half the time, the just want to be the most secure and stable Linux distro out there. The other half of the time, all that matters is the licensing aspect.

    I really wish they would make up their minds. Are they trying to provide the most stable distro out there, or are they trying to be an unofficial organ of the FSF? Both perhaps? If this last is the case, then they ought to have been more balanced about this decision. Why push back the release cycle by a whole year just to make the GNU zealots happy? Why not wait until the next release for these change and bring Sarge out on time? At least the message there would have been that "we agree with FSF/GNU ideals in principal, but we have other goals which are as important as far as this release goes."

    Instead, the message they are sending is that "Debian is for GNU zealots only. We don't give a damn about anyone else. If you have a need for any closed-source program or proprietary hardware, you are evil." I am sick of this attitude, frankly.

    Don't get me wrong, I respect what RMS and FSF/GNU have done for the cause of free/OSS software, but I simply can't agree with the notion that closed-source is evil. I prefer Linus' approach which is essentially to say that we think free/OSS is a better idea, but that authors have a right to go closed-source if they want. Personally, I tend to think that the BSD license is often, maybe even generally, superior to the GPL. I use Linux because it ofers more choices than BSD, not because I dislike BSD or its license. I had thought that Debian was distancing itself from GNU, but I guess they've done a 180.

    I have used Debian for over three years, because I like the package system. I am not a GNU zealot. Over the last two years, I have become increasingly annoyed with holdups in the release cycle, but promises of a quick Sarge release went a long way to apease me. This is the last straw. There are other distros (Gentoo for one) with as good or better package/ports systems, and that at least pretend to care about real-world users. Goodbye Debian.

    P.S. Before anyone flames me, keep in mind that in part I am blowing off steam out of utter frustration. If I spoke overly harshly, I apologize to anyone I offended.

    • by twilight30 ( 84644 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @06:27AM (#8981756) Homepage
      I hear what you're saying, I've been more than a little annoyed with Debian as well lately. But...

      I don't use the Stable release, outside of sysadmins, I don't think I know anyone else who does.

      They have an obligation to release free stuff that has only become stricter in the last few years. What they are saying about proprietary hardware is not, 'Fuck you, you are evil,' but rather, 'We're sorry, but we have no control nor proper information over the hardware you're using and can't really help you, because if we did have that information, we would be constrained by the makers of your hardware not to divulge it to you.'

      To take a completely trivial example, the computer I'm typing this on has an NVidia video card, and I run Debian testing on it. I knew I'd have a hard time using Debian-only software on it, so off I went to Google. Within an hour I had everything downloaded and installed.

      OK, perhaps not as easy as grabbing Fedora. But I know as a result of this what I have, what Debian can provide, and what they can't. In other words, I've learned something, and I didn't have it done for me.

      A lot of times people forget or get confused as to what the Debian project is about. But they tell you this upfront: they aim to make a free computer operating system. Not to make the easiest, or most convenient -- though it would be nice -- or to make the most secure or most complete. Simply to make it free, so that when a new user, a business, an organisation or a government picks it up, they won't have to --ever-- worry about licensing costs or any other shit.

      Limiting the GNU stuff to exclude FDL documentation is, I agree, a total pain in the ass. Granted, disk space is no problem for users these days. But what would be the alternative be? Gloss over the very real difference in opinion as to the modification of texts as just a side issue? It creates problems because the GNU project says 'You have to accept this part and parcel of the original package even if you don't agree with any of it nor does it have any real use'.

      And no, this is not a flame, it's an honest question -- if this is really a problem, why aren't you using a FreeBSD system instead? They have ports. They have lots of free stuff. They have a large userbase, they have lots of online support and are pragmatic. What's the holdup?
  • For fuck's sake... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by theantix ( 466036 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:20AM (#8981161) Journal
    That's it... I'm giving up on Debian. I know they mean well but some users just want a stable system that has had application updates since 1994. I agree with the ideology of their actions, I think the unfree documenation should be removed from the project. But that should be a project goal for the next release, because we were nearly ready for one in the coming months.

    It's sad, because the idea of a community driven project is noble, and I hate to see it fail. But this is failure -- they have abandoned their release goals and further postponed an already rediculously overdue rlease. They just aren't serious about maintaining a stable release, and thus I'm not going to take them seriously.

    Not that they owe me anything -- I appreciate all the hard work that the Debian Developers do. But this is just the last straw...
  • by luna1ix ( 549450 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:24AM (#8981174)
    Debian has decided to change the codename of the next release to GNU/Longhorn.
  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @05:16AM (#8981560)
    Don't get me wrong, I love Debian, and use it myself, but the installer is downright crappy, typically requiring a bunch of manual editing of kernel module configurations and whatnot to get a system to install (usually with the aid of some HOWTOs). Knoppix is Debian-based and Just Works, auto-detecting everything fine---and it's Free Software. Why doesn't Debian just borrow their installer or something?
    • Knoppix is not Free Software because of the kernel binary firmware. That's the problem with which Debian is grappling.
      • Sure, the firmware isn't Free, but neither is the firmware actually loaded in your motherboard's EEPROM chips. You don't see people raising a ruckus about how they refuse to purchase motherboards on which the firmware is not Free Software, so why are they worried about this? This firmware is pretty tightly coupled to the hardware in a similar way as the EEPROM firmware is.

        Now maybe if people were going to an 100% Free system in which every single piece of their computer was Free, then I'd see the point,
    • No. (Score:3, Informative)

      by eddy ( 18759 )

      >Why doesn't Debian just borrow their installer or something?

      Historically the problem has been that these "smooth installers" are i386-only. Debian supports many different architectures, and they're not about to make i386 a "special case".

      Hope this answers your question.

  • too far (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tacocat ( 527354 ) <> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @07:23AM (#8982028)

    I was reading on this email post and it's really discouraging.

    many pieces of hardware will not be supported by the Debian system itself
    The single biggest problem that I've seen in getting people to adopt Linux, and Debian in particular, is the function of hardware connected to the computer. If my widget doesn't work with Linux then what's the point of using Linux?

    I've grown accustomed to the practice of due diligence on researching any hardware support for a product X before I buy it. But if I have to start doing this, and then perform another search just for Debian, it's making Debian very unattractive.

    I am really doubtful that this is a smart move on their part. I am a HUGE fan of Debian and very supportive of their work. But the implications of this are not good from where I sit. Their ideologies are making their product non-useful to the community which they attempt to serve.

    They are creating an overly complex architecture at a time when Linux does not have the support necessary from the commercial entities controlling the market (hardware and software). This will tend to isolate Debian from the rest of the Linux community and may give them the label of "Oh... Those guys over there in the orange sheets."

    I hope I'm wrong, but I think Debian really screwed this up in a big way. The fact that they have just incurred an entire year of delays to their release cycle at a time when they were months away and years behind the rest really doesn't help them in the least.

    I really don't understand their motives with this one.

    • Re:too far (Score:3, Informative)

      by Phleg ( 523632 )

      "the Debian system itself" is the key phrase, here.

      When Debian refers to its own release, it does not refer to packages in contrib and non-free. They're there, they're updated, they're maintained by Debian Developers, they've got mailing lists, they've got bug reporting pages, and they're available through apt. However, they're not an official part of the Debian distribution.

      Support for this hardware will still be there--you'll just need to add a single word to your apt configuration: "non-free".

  • by Phleg ( 523632 ) <stephen@ t o> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @08:46AM (#8982625)

    I see a lot of people are asking Debian to just throw Sarge out the door, and then worry about complying with the Debian Free Software Guidelines and the Social Contract.

    This is not possible. What was recently voted on is a new social contract which forbids releasing any software, documentation or other product that isn't free. It's not just a decision that was made, or simply that a large number of people wanted it so that it's done. It's an actual contract upheld to its users by the entire Debian team. Doing a quick release of Sarge would not only be a violation of that contract, but it would be a violation of the entire spirit of Debian.

    • This is not possible. What was recently voted on is a new social contract which forbids releasing any software, documentation or other product that isn't free. It's not just a decision that was made, or simply that a large number of people wanted it so that it's done. It's an actual contract upheld to its users by the entire Debian team. Doing a quick release of Sarge would not only be a violation of that contract, but it would be a violation of the entire spirit of Debian.

      Perhaps what might have been a

  • More Free than GNU? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nutcase ( 86887 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @09:47AM (#8983260) Homepage Journal
    I always thought Debian was essentially the linux implementation of the FSF/GNU ideals. Most other distros make compromises for usability, but debian never compromises on freedom. This is just the latest example of that. And more power too them for it.

    The amazing thing here is this: In reaffiming their commitment to freedom, they are finding that they have to exclude some GNU documentation because it is considered non-free. In other words, Debian now seems to value free software more than the Free Software Foundation.

    Thats disappointing, but at least Debian is sticking to their ideals without compromise. Too bad the FSF can't say the same.
  • by kungfujew ( 682569 ) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @10:04AM (#8983475)
    Just thought I'd clear the confusion here... I saw some of you guys refer to sarge as "unstable" and sid as "testing".....this is not the case. the correct names are: stable=woody- for production servers (current stable release) sarge=testing - this you run on your home machine sid=unstable -you dont want to run this because it breaks almost every day trust me, backing out of a dist upgrade to unstable is a painfull and involved process.
  • by Daniel ( 1678 ) < minus cat> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @10:54AM (#8984046)
    Here's some context for people who don't follow Debian matters habitually.

    Debian has a document called the DFSG, or Debian Free Software Guidelines. These guidelines are used to determine whether software included in Debian is free: they require that the software be freely distributable, freely modifiable, etc. Stuff that doesn't meet these guidelines doesn't go on the CD images and is segregated into the "non-free" section of the archive; this policy is enshrined in Debian's Social Contract. More contextual information on the DFSG and its application is available here [].

    Now, historically, these guidelines have been applied to everything distributed by Debian. For instance, the Doom shareware .WAD went into non-free because its license forbade modification. However, some controversy has arisen in the last few years due to two developments: first, the FSF started using a new license (the "GNU Free Documentation License") for its documentation; more recently, there has been a trend for hardware manufacturers to require drivers to upload binary firmware code upon initialization.

    Despite its name, the "GNU Free Documentation License" turned out not to meet the DFSG (you can read some unofficial explanations [URL redacted because I believe the author wishes to keep it private for the time being; I will post it later if he tells me it's ok; I'll badly summarize it by saying that Invariant Sections are the major issue but not the only problem]). Because this license was applied to documentation of large packages, such as libc and Emacs, because it claimed to be "Free", and because it was published by the FSF, some people felt that Debian should find a way to distribute software under this license in "main" even though it was clearly non-free according to the DFSG. The typical argument advanced to support this position was that "documentation is not software, so it doesn't need to meet the DFSG". This argument relied on an ambiguity in the meaning of the word "software": it can mean either "anything that's not hardware", or "sequences of instructions to be executed on the host microprocessor".

    The firmware issue is somewhat different; there were some recent arguments on the debian-devel mailing list over whether binary firmware that is uploaded by an otherwise free driver should be moved to non-free. I haven't followed this as closely, and it only came up in the last month or two. (well, it has been discussed in the past, but the first serious discussion I'm aware of is in the last month or two)

    The amendment that was recently passed changes the text of the Social Contract to make it clear that everything in the Debian archives (not just executable programs) should meet the DFSG. This was intended to settle the GFDL question once and for all.

    The message referenced by this /. article is a post from the Release Manager indicating that he is changing his policy as a result of the GR. Until now, certain things that were unambiguously non-free, but where it was felt that the non-freeness was either not a regression (ie, they were non-free before and we didn't realize it and distributed them anyway), or where it would cause significant disruption to force the non-free item out of main (for instance, binary firmware), were being allowed to remain in Debian main until the release of sarge. Assuming that this message was sent in good faith, Anthony is indicating that he honestly believes that this was not previously a pragmatic exception to the Social Contract, and that no such pragmatic exception is possible now. Thus, he is now holding up the release until all this non-free stuff gets removed from main.

    Discussion is ongoing on several Debian lists, and I don't think it's appropriate to make assumptions about the final outcome until things have settled down again.


Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson